Tim Burton is an imaginative filmmaker with an obsession for the
visual aspects of films, especially the darker motifs. After his
quirky 1988 movie BEETLEJUICE starring Michael Keaton, in 1989 he
resurrected the BATMAN series, which was last seen in the 1960s TV
series with Adam West and Burt Ward. As the lead, Burton again cast
Keaton, but the script by Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren has a Robin who
When reviving a series or a movie, there should be an idea of what
new can be said. Burton's vision was that he wanted a dark Gotham City
and little more. Anton Furst's Academy Award winning sets are massive
monuments to nothingness. They are ugly without form or purpose, but
they do create just the right mood of hopelessness and despair that
Burton wanted. (An experiment worth making would be to turn off the
sound and see if the movie has just about as much impact, which it
probably would.) BATMAN is a celebration of form over story.
Keaton's Batman is serious and broody. His would-be girlfriend,
Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger), provides a plastic beauty. The chemistry
between Keaton and Basinger never becomes believable. Batman is too
cerebral to care, and Vale too untouchable to really get involved.
Regardless of what transpires, their love appears like little more than
The show drags along until Jack Napier, played by Jack Nicholson
in one of his lesser performances, tangles with Batman and loses. The
resulting accident destroys Napier's looks so he comes back as The
Joker, a guy with a clown's make-up. ("Wait 'til they get a load of
me," he brags.)
The Joker gets most of the film's few good lines. "The pen is
truly mightier than the sword," he proclaims after killing someone by
throwing a pen into his throat.
Other than the comic book story and the sets, the only other
things else worth seeing are Batman's toys. Chief among these is his
gadget laden Batmobile.
If Franz Kafka had ever made a comic book, it would undoubtedly
resemble this version of BATMAN - dark and depressing, but holding a
certain undeniable fascination nevertheless.
BATMAN runs too long at 2:06. It is rated PG-13 for its
cartoonish violence. My son Jeffrey, age 8, liked it, but not nearly
as much as his favorite, BATMAN FOREVER. As much as I admire the
technical details of the film, I cannot recommend the movie, but I do
give it ** for its visual impact.
Copyright © 1997 Steve Rhodes